“For 90 percent of the people in the world, the need to buy Microsoft Word just vanished”

So says Michael Robertson, creator of MP3.com and the man behind desktop linux system Linspire. His latest wheeze? A slew of AJAX applications, the first of which is an online Word-type program called ajaxWrite. According to Mr. R:

ajaxWrite is a powerful word processor that can read and write Microsoft Word formatted documents. Anytime you need a word processor, need to open a .doc file or edit a .doc file, simply point your Firefox browser at ajaxWrite.com and in seconds a full-featured program will be loaded.

I’d quibble with “seconds” (at least today) and it misbehaves in my beta of Firefox, but it’s certainly interesting…

15 thoughts on ““For 90 percent of the people in the world, the need to buy Microsoft Word just vanished”

  1. tm says:

    90 percent of the people in the world? Not 90 percent of the computer owning people in the world? Not 90 percent of the computer owning, word owning people in the world? My goodness I’m sure there are people in sub-saharan africa who could use the CDs that word comes on as a handy reflector for numerous purposes, none of which are possible with a web based app.

    But then he is selling deskptop linux and let’s face it that’s not an activity for anyone with a healthy realism streak at the moment is it now?

  2. Gary says:

    > My goodness I’m sure there are people in sub-saharan africa who could use the CDs that word comes on as a handy reflector for numerous purposes, none of which are possible with a web based app.

    Oh, you cynic. Mind you, I thought something similar with all the hype over the sub-£100 PC for the developing world. Of all the problems the world faces, is lack of computer equipment really one of the most pressing?

  3. paul says:

    Of all the problems the world faces, is lack of computer equipment really one of the most pressing?

    I doubt it, but it’s not an either/or situation: perhaps what the developing world needs is clean water, affordable medical supplies, fair trade and cheap computers.

  4. Squander Two says:

    And Web access is a force for good. One of the reasons Communism collapsed in Russia but not North Korea is that Russians had at least some access to Western information, which caused them to see that there were better ways of doing things and make demands accordingly. The North Koreans are completely cut off, largely as a result of their country not being en route to anywhere. When an African farmer is able to have online conversations with farmers in Scotland, Canada, and Argentina, how could he not get better at farming?

  5. tm says:

    Well for a start web access is irrelevant in places where there are no phone lines. Or only very bad ones. Or only very expensive ones.

    And if you do have a slow web connection then you will (should?) use it for your converstation with your scottish/canadian/angentinian farm buddy rather than some band-width hogging marketing friendly ajax nonsense. You will probably happily use some heavyweight local software to do the word processing you require.

    Is now a good time to say that I just picked ‘sub-saharan africa’ because I like the way it sounds? I could just have easily picked the example of a laptop user without easy connectity. Thank goodness none of them use word very often… ;-)

  6. Gary says:

    There’s a very compelling argument that technology-wise, the mobile phone is much more important in the developing world than a computer could ever be… I don’t really have a point :)

  7. paul says:

    I wish I had the link to the thread on FARK that discussed this laptop. Someone in one of these countries made a good point: that not all of the developing world is starving and in need of food, water and medicine. For example, wouldn’t they also be useful in city schools, hospitals, etc.?

    I don’t really have a point, either :)

  8. tm says:

    >food, water and medicine.

    Oh yes originally I had a comment in there about poor countries needing lots of things and them needing to be prioritised, with priorites different in different places, computers help hospitals but are less help to the average subsistence farmer are they?

    But then I removed it because actually it has nothing to do with wether or not that mans comments are hype fueled and fueling nonsense based on arguments a twelve year old could drive a bus through.

    Which *is* what I was making a point about in the first place… ;-)

  9. Stephen says:

    My feeling on the $100 laptop is that it is just another ego trip by the “new colonialists”, the aid agencies. Deciding what the Third World needs and then giving it to them is not only ridiculously arrogant, it’s also stupid: if the Soviet Union couldn’t even plan its own economy, how can we hope to plan the economies of a whole region? Support good governance and democracy, and the Third World will get clean water, medicines, cheap computers, and whatever else it needs, the same way we do: the free market.

  10. Squander Two says:

    Finally tried it. It’s OK, but doesn’t have smart quotes, making it no better than WordPad. That’s no bad thing — I really like WordPad — but it’s not that great, either.

  11. tm says:

    Hmmmmm. Change that headline to “For 90 percent of the people in the world, the need to ever run Microsoft WordPad just vanished”. I can see why he pitched it against word instead… ;-)

    Actually I loathe word pad. Plain text and notepad for me. It’s the geek in me, I can’t help myself.

  12. Gary says:

    There’s a new one up: AjaxSketch. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume the server’s getting hammered, because it’s taking all day to load.

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